Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: The Wrong Way To Keep It In The Family

Over the years, the Verizon IndyCar Series has seen second-generation, third-generation, and even a fourth-generation driver try their luck in the premiere open-wheel series in North America.

Three names that are royalty in the history of the sport; Andretti, Foyt, and Rahal have each entered into this conversation, and each has one thing in common. At some point in their careers, each son of a legend drove either for their father or grandfather’s team. Each driver has enjoyed their share of success or depression during this foray, but with noticeable differences. The variance in the plan of attack shows that there is a right way and a wrong way to handle this situation.

In the first of this two-part series, I will take a look at the best example of the negative route: the trials and tribulations of one A.J. Foyt IV, driving for his grandfather’s team.

Whether you are a fan of auto racing or not, the name A.J. Foyt is the definition of the sport. Not only has “Super Tex” won the Indianapolis 500 four times as a driver, but he has also won the Memorial Day Classic as a full-time car owner and was successful in both front-engined roadsters and rear-engine speedsters.

Any vehicle that featured four wheels, Foyt found a way to the winner’s circle. So understandably, the expectations of a future generation of Foyt, in this case, A.J. Foyt IV, would face very high expectations.

Those views were further enhanced when Anthony won the inaugural Firestone Indy Lights championship in 2002, winning four races of the
series’ seven events. Although just 18 years of age and with only two years of open wheel racing experience on his resume, Foyt was quickly
pointed to taking over the famous No. 14 machine for his grandfather’s team in the IndyCar Series for 2003.

Obviously, the expectations for any driver carrying the name would be high from the fans, the media, and the team. Sadly, they may have too
high and too demanding. Foyt IV’s debut season was certainly a trial by fire, as he failed to post a top ten finish and also was not running at the end of nine of the season’s sixteen events.

Foyt IV did manage to finish in his first Indy 500, coming in 18th, yet one common factor kept being brought up from those inside the fences. As the younger Foyt continued to be mired in the back of the pack, his grandfather’s frustrations began to be made known.

Nowhere did these frustrations surface more publicly than after Foyt IV crashed out in the early laps of the 2004 Indy 500, when on live television, ABC publicly aired a frustrated radio comment from his grandfather following the incident. Foyt IV finished 33rd and last, while
his cousin Larry who also participated in the same event finished only spot higher after also crashing out of the event.

After only posting three top ten finishes in his first three seasons of IndyCar competition, Foyt IV spent the 2006 calendar in the NASCAR Busch Series (now Xfinity Series), before returning to IndyCar in 2007 with Tony George’s Vision Racing team.

Although Foyt would reach the peak of his career accomplishments over the next two seasons, including his career best finish of third place
at Kentucky Speedway, Foyt would ultimately lose his seat and wound up once again end up with his family operation for a pair of Indy 500 one-off efforts in 2009 and 2010.

Sadly, the pressure of driving for his grandfather seemed to add an undesired distraction as he struggled through the month of May in 2009, ultimately finishing 16th on race day. His final Indy effort was equally rough, leading Foyt to leave the team and racing for good after failing to make the top 24 cut on Pole Day.

For A.J. Foyt, IV, who currently works for the Indianapolis Colts as a scouting assistant, his five-year odyssey for his family-run operation shows how “keeping it in the family” can be a nightmare.

Later this week, I will look into how Graham Rahal and his father Bobby have made it work over the past three years at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: IndyCar Stars Who Have Conquered The Rolex 24

The wheels are not exposed and the cars feature roofs, yet many veterans of the Verizon IndyCar Series have taken well to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And while proving road racing savvy is not limited to one series of competition, a few big names of the current or recent fulltime fleet have managed to put a Rolex Chronometer on their wrists as an overall champion.

The biggest benefactors to this over the last decade have been drivers associated with Chip Ganassi Racing, who have achieved similar success in sports car racing as they have over the years in IndyCar competition. Former IndyCar veteran and 1995 Michigan 500 winner Scott Pruett has won the Rolex 24 overall on five occasions, four coming with Ganassi. With the larger than normal driving teams at Daytona sometimes requiring as many as five different pilots for one car, the former driver and current team boss has often opened the door to his drivers from both his IndyCar and NASCAR operations to participate in the famous endurance race and several have made the most of the opportunity.

The most successful of those one-off runners is two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia, who has reached the top step of the podium in the Rolex 24 at Daytona three times.  Multi-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has collected two overall wins at Daytona, while current teammate Tony Kanaan paired up with Dixon to the race in 2015, while Charlie Kimball teamed up with Pruett to earn first place in 2013. In addition to the three members of the four drivers currently featured on Ganassi’s fulltime openwheel racing team, former team members Graham Rahal, Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon have also tasted success at the Rolex 24.

Of course, IndyCar drivers succeeding at Daytona, have not been limited to Chip Ganassi Racing, however. For instance, current Dale Coyne Racing team member Sebastien Bourdais joined forces with former Newman Haas Racing pilot Christian Fittipaldi to win the race for Action Express Racing in 2014. Reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona champion Scott Sharp, won the inaugural Indy Racing League title in 1996 and won the pole position for the 2001 Indianapolis 5oo. Also, 2004 Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice won at Daytona in 2009 as part of the famed Brumos Racing team.

In addition to the above listed names, since 1990 fellow Indy 500 veterans Davy Jones, P.J. Jones, Mark Dismore, Rocky Moran, John Paul, Jr., Arie Luyendyk, Didier Theys, Chris Kniefel, Johnny O’Connell, Max Papis, A.J. Allmendinger, and the late Justin Wilson have also won the overall race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Among those veterans, the efforts from Luyendyk, Theys, and Papis stand out the most in the history of the twice around the clock challenge. Luyendyk and Theys made up half of the driving quartet that delivered longtime driver and entrant Dr. Gianpiero Moretti his first and only Daytona triumph in 1998, after the Ferrari runner had come close earlier in the 1990s on several occasions. Papis teamed up with Theys to win the race in 2002; however, the Italian may be more remembered for his late race surge to within a lap of the overall win over the final three hours of the event in 1996.

Although the chances of another current IndyCar driver claiming overall victory in 2017 appears limited at this point, there could be plenty of action in the lower grand touring classes. Paul Gentilozzi’s new GT Daytona class Lexus team will feature Pruett, three-time Indy 500 starter Sage Karam, and former A.J. Foyt Racing driver Jack Hawksworth. Michael Shank Racing’s new Acura NSXs will have current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay behind the wheel, while Scott Dixon will team up with 2012 Indy 500 pole sitter Ryan Briscoe in a Ford GT for Chip Ganassi in the GT Le Mans class.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Chilton’s Future At CGR Is Not A Secure One

The question entering the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series relating to Max Chilton is simple. Did he earn a second year with Chip Ganassi Racing based on merit, or on money?

Those believing what he did on track this year was enough to receive a second-year to prove his worth aren’t looking down on the results. In his rookie campaign, he posted top ten finishes at Phoenix International Raceway and Watkins Glen International, plus coupled with only three did-not finish efforts.

On the other side of the coin, critics point to his lucrative sponsorship deal with Gallagher Investments as a means to cover some of the funds lost by the discontinuation of super store chain Target’s backing of the team as the main reason for the ex-Formula One pilot’s return. Recall Sage Karam in 2015 – he posted similar results but was not retained by Chip Ganassi Racing for 2016.

Regardless of whether one of the two points of view triumphed over the other, one reality is clear for the 25-year old in 2017 and beyond: his future is far from a solid one. If indeed Chilton struggles to better or even match his 2016 output, it could be what pulls the plug from the socket. With the talent present in each level of the Mazda Road to Indy pyramid, plus a large number of drivers who were unable to secure full time rides for 2017 also in waiting, Chilton may find himself left on the outside. No results and Ganassi look elsewhere for a new fourth driver in 2018, especially if a new sponsor to fill Target’s void is added to the pot.

Although Chilton did avoid trouble in most of the 16 races run in 2016, he only placed 19th on the final points table. Among full-time drivers, only A.J. Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth placed lower in the championship standings this year. Equally troubling is the fact that despite failing to finish five times in 2016, Conor Daly who placed just ahead of Chilton in the standings, managed to post five top ten finishes this year for Dale Coyne Racing and finished 46 points ahead of the Englishman. Not a good impression considering most place Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of Dale Coyne’s squad regarding the equipment each can offer a driver.

In relation to his CGR teammates, Chilton was also outclassed in 2016, as Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Charlie Kimball each placed in the top ten on the final points table. All three drivers also posted ten or more finishes in the first ten places, and Kimball even managed to be running at the finish of all 16 Verizon IndyCar Series events. Even though it is not expected for a rookie to match all of the stats his veteran cohorts manage completely, year two must show improvement. Despite maintaining a hefty war chest of fundings, Chilton still needs to provide a strong output in 2017, if he hopes to remain in a full-time for a top team in the years ahead.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Servia To Rahal Confirmed For Indy; More On The Way?

The full story on Oriol Servia’s complete slate for 2017 is still in question. However, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has confirmed the Pais, Spain veteran will drive a second car for the team in 2017, for at least the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 next May. RLLR did add there are more races possibly for the schedule.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be back with Bobby, Mike and my second father Mr. Letterman for the 2017 Indy 500,” said Oriol Servia. “We’ve done it before and had some success but both the team and myself are only doing this because we feel we can contend for the win together. Since Day 1 in 2009, working with Graham as a teammate has been great and now at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, it just feels like a family. The team has been the best Honda entry the past two years and the objective would be to continue to make the team even better in order to fight the multi car teams at Indy and also hopefully for the entire season. We feel that together we can do that. I can’t wait to get started. We plan to go for the win at the Indy 500 and at as many other races as we can.”

The 2017 season will represent Servia’s fourth Indy 500 effort with RLLR, having driven for the Ohio-based operation in 2009, 2014, and 2015. Servia qualified for his eighth appearance in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this past May, starting tenth and finishing 26th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Servia has placed in the top ten at Indy twice in his career, with a best finish of fourth in 2012 after starting 27th.

“Oriol is a talented driver who brings value beyond what takes place on the race track,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with CBS Late Show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan. “His race craft is that of a veteran obviously but more important than that is his ability to develop the race car and as a one car team fighting the multi-car teams the last few years, that is a big benefit. We have a great chemistry at our team and Oriol fits nicely into our program.”

With Servia confirmed, there are 21 car and driver combinations set for the 2017 Indianapolis 500, which currently features four former champions.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 
Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Can Sato Finally Match His Potential?

Based on his current portfolio, Takuma Sato seemed like an odd candidate to secure the fourth and final full-time role with Andretti Autosport for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The above view certainly has some truth to it for the 39-year old from Tokyo, Japan. In seven seasons contesting North America’s premiere open-wheel racing circus, the veteran has shown a ton of pace in qualifying and the early stagases of many races. The problem, however, has been a glaring one: an inability to stay there at the finish. Entering the 2017 campaign, Sato has placed no better than 13th on the final points table and has only one victory next to his name coming in the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Of course, Sato has had his share of close calls likewise. The most notable came in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 when he moved up from the 19th starting position to take the lead for 31 laps in the event’s second half. Unfortunately, a failed overtake on eventual race winner Dario Franchitti at turn one on the final lap relegated him to contact with the outside wall and a 17th-place finish. The Japanese veteran pilot has also contended in the 2013 and 2016 editions of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing; however, a spin and wall contact respectively ended those challenges.

So on paper, the potential for a breakthrough exists and while many experts understandably raised eyebrows when Michael Andretti tapped him to replace Carlos Munoz, a two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up. However, before one is quick to criticize the decision, keep this fact in mind – the fourth ride at Andretti Autosport has bolstered the chances for at least two other hard luck drivers during this decade.

The first was Venezuela’s E.J. Viso, who qualified a strong fourth in the 2013 Indy 500, led five laps and ran amongst the lead pack for the first 150 laps of the race until a bad pit stop dropped him to 18th at the finish. The other of course was Alexander Rossi in this year’s race. Rossi, like Viso, struggled during the remainder of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, yet he managed put all the puzzle pieces together during the month of May. After qualifying 11th, Rossi drove a steady race and then pounced upon a golden opportunity strategy-wise to take the victory.

So based on my evaluation, the potential in both the understudy seat(s) at Andretti Autosport and what Takuma Sato can achieve is out there. Now comes the hard part: can the ex-Formula One driver finally grasp this chance and extend it to the fullest? The 2017 season will provide the answer.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: The Five Most Action Packed Corners in IndyCar

 Races at the highspeed ovals such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Texas Motor Speedway generally draw the most attention among those who follow the Verizon IndyCar Series. However, the road and street circuits which make up a larger portion of the current slate of events each have their own “action” hot spots where several memorable moments have occurred. Now some of these have been more tilted toward the positive side, while some have been not so good.

In this week’s commentary, I take a look at the five wildest corners currently in IndyCar and why each deserves its top billing.

 

5. St Petersburg Street Circuit’s Turn One:

The first braking zone of the season has often seen three and fourwide passing attempts work out great for some, yet poorly for others. Marco Andretti’s recent wild ride comes to mind here, among several others most commonly occurring at the opening of the new year. The off camber nature of this oddly angled righthander, plus its bumpy nature and the funnel down effect at the apex makes contact here sometimes unavoidable.

The key to mastering this section is getting off the final hairpin cleanly to maximize the airport runway front straight. Any slip or slide will make one vulnerable to any Push to Pass aided overtake at turn one, unless one defends the inside lane and forces the trailing car to take a long way around.

4.Watkins Glen International’s Inner Loop Chicane:

While New York’s Thunder Road features several great corners, the Inner Loop chicane has been the scene of many out braking duels in both IndyCar and NASCAR. Created in 1992 to slow down cars on the fast back straightaway, the section inadvertently created probably the most opportune chance to gain positions on the circuit. Being able to complete a maneuver before entering the first part of the Inner Loop to finish off a pass successfully is required, as the curbs at all parts of this section will launch a car off the ground. As a result, a full out of control scenario where a trip to the outside gravel trap is certainly possible.

Being able to hold the accelerator wide open through the uphill Esses and turn four will open up any the door of opportunity to gain ground with Push to Pass activation most effectively done just entering the chute before the run to the braking zone.

3. Exhibition Place Street Circuit’s (Toronto) Turn 3:

Although the narrow nature of the Exhibition Place design has made passing famously difficult over the years, the run down Lake Shore Boulevard to the tight, turn three righthander serves as the area where overtaking most commonly is attempted. Although several successful passes come to mind, one of most infamous challenges gone wrong came in 1989 when Mario Andretti tried to pass Teo Fabi. Andretti moved alongside Fabi, only to find the abandoned Alfa Romeo of Roberto Guererro parked in the same area. Although Andretti managed to escape the nasty impact without suffering injury, the incident would significantly change the way the series would handle stopped cars on the track.

Minus Andretti’s unfortunate situation, the majority of incidents occurring at turn three have been much less wild. The key to gaining or holding position here is getting the braking zone right and being positioned correctly entering the corner. The closer one applies the brakes in relation to the pedestrian bridge on Lake Shore Blvd., makes one more likely to lock up or miss the sweet spot of the corner. This can result in contact with the outside tire barrier and/or position loss since the turn’s narrow nature makes side by side racing next to impossible. You also do not want to get caught on the outside line entering the corner as it is not the most efficient way to hit the entry. An approach using the middle of the road or just left of center should allow for a dive to the inside of the car in front.

2. Streets of Long Beach’s Turn One:

The braking area at the end of Shoreline Drive in its current and previous configurations has been witness to many great moments over the years. Although the infamous turn 11 hairpin draws a majority of attention, getting out of this section cleanly is the goal to make any overtaking maneuver at the conclusion of Shoreline possible. One great example came in 1999 when then CART rookie Juan Pablo Montoya made a pair of successful overtakes at turn one on the way to his first career North American openwheel victory. The section was also a controversial corner in 2016 as Simon Pagenaud appeared to cut off the pit lane exit entering turn one to maintain the lead over Scott Dixon.

Although gaining ground is certainly possible at the 90-degree lefthander, the consequences for getting the turn wrong can be nasty. The tire barrier and runoff roads have caught many drivers who elected to be too cavalier at attempting a late out braking charge and sometimes the impacts with the tires have been so wild that cars have even rolled over as a result. Even before the 1999 track reconfiguration around the city’s aquarium, the former turn one was equally memorable as a 90-degree righthander with many successful overtakes and several unsuccessful moments, including Scott Pruett’s wild shunt in practice for the 1992 race.

1. Barber Motorsports Park’s Charlotte’s Web Hairpin (Turn Three):

Although the quick turn nature of the Birmingham, Alabama layout makes most of the corners here a follow the leader exercise, the story is different when the IndyCar fleet enters the tight and tricky downhill hairpin, named for the spider statue beyond the left side barriers. The tougher braking zone makes missing the apex common here and drivers can be punished for trying to get out of the hairpin too soon. Recall earlier this year when Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal were battling, which eventually resulted in contact and the Team Penske pilot going off course, before finally reeling in and overtaking the damaged car of Rahal to secure the race win.

Getting off of the uphill turn two without spinning the tires and coupled with a pressing of the Push to Pass button on the steering wheel should allow for a passing attempt to occur at Charlotte’s Web, whether a driver takes the inside lane or even the outside lane. Unlike the other facets of the Barber circuit, the hairpin is wide enough to account for side by side racing and does offer decent grip using the longer, outside route.

Although every road and street circuit currently in the Verizon IndyCar Series has its own character and has its own signature section, the five challenges mentioned above currently provide the most excitement that open wheel racing has to offer.

Agree with my list? Believe there is another corner(s) worth a mention? Post your comment below or leave a comment on Twitter.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

IndyCar Silly Season Almost Wrapped Up

Often in the most recent years of the Verizon IndyCar Series, silly season and the final fulltime seats on the circuit were often not decided until days, sometimes hours before the opening of the first race weekend. Looking ahead to 2017 however, things certainly have not followed this pattern.

Perhaps in an accelerated and exhilarated mode due to the momentum generated from one of its best campaigns since the split of openwheel racing in North America twenty years ago, the landscape for the 2017 season could be fully in place before the first day of the new year. As of November 20, 2016, only three (potentially four) fulltime seats are without team confirmation. As a result, this could also push up the calls on driver picks for next May’s 101st running of the  Indianapolis 500, something that may also cool off the concern of the race not featuring a full, 33-car grid, a common concern among IndyCar’s fan base for the last several years.

Currently, all of the rides below are set in stone before the Thanksgiving Day holiday…

Penske: Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power

Ganassi: Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, (one vacancy)

Andretti: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, (one vacancy)

Carpenter: Ed Carpenter (ovals only), (road courses only driver, unknown), J.R. Hildebrand

Schmidt-Peterson: James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin

Foyt: Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz

Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan: Graham Rahal, (one potential vacancy)

Coyne: Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Jones

KV: (one vacancy)

Now regarding the vacancies, the fourth seat at Andretti Autosport appears to be the least in question. Multiple insider reports suggest that former AJ Foyt Racing pilot Takuma Sato will take the seat. Following a difficult 2016 season, plus a possible switch by the Texas-based squad from Honda to Chevrolet engines for 2017, Honda began shopping around Sato’s services to keep him on the fulltime grid for 2017. In terms of making that a reality, Andretti seems to be the best option.

As for the final opening at Chip Ganassi Racing and the single seat at KV Racing, another former Formula One pilot Max Chilton appears to be in the position to fill one of the seats. Chilton, with personal backing from Gallagher Investments, contested the full IndyCar tour in 2016 with CGR and reports recently suggested a renewal for 2017 was “imminent.” However, things have yet to be set in stone, which has created some buzz from the underground.

Of course, if Chilton does not end up with Ganassi the options for finding another driver are limited. Reports suggest that a personal budget of at least six million dollars is needed to cover the financial requirements for the fourth CGR ride and not many of the current free agent drivers in play can offer that amount of money. About the only other driver who could have the dollars to cover the ride is Indy Lights veteran Felix Serralles. The 24-year old Puerto Rico-born driver won two races last year in Lights and placed sixth on the final points table.

If Chilton does not retain the seat at Ganassi, he would immediately become the lead candidate for the opening at KV Racing, the team currently in the most uncertainty for its IndyCar racing future. With investor James Sullivan pulling his support and reportedly a relocation of the team’s headquarters from Indianapolis to Florida in the works, money is needed for the new year, and the savior could come in the form of Indy Lights entrant Trevor Carlin. Carlin, who entered the car Ed Jones used to win this year’s Indy Lights championship, has been pointing to an eventual move up to the major series and the situation could see him step in to aid KV’s current financial trouble. With Carlin in play, the team would certainly follow the Ganassi situation closely and would be more than eager to snap up Chilton, who drove for Carlin both in Indy Lights and in the lower European ranks before his one season in Formula One. Beyond Chilton, a pay driver appears necessary to help KV, and there are several of those drivers out there seeking seats.

As silly season for full time seats enters its climax, two other concerns have yet to reach a conclusion. Ed Carpenter is looking for a driver to fill his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Chevrolet for the road course events in 2017. 2015 Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot handled those duties for ECR this season, but insider tips suggest he may not be the driver in the lead to continue that role. In addition to Pigot, fellow Indy Lights veteran Zach Veach, who does offer some financial backing could take over the role, which would likely include a separate car for the 101st Indianapolis 500.

There is also an outside chance that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing may also expand to two fulltime runners in 2017, in its efforts to reach Graham Rahal’s goal to win an IndyCar Series championship. Reportedly, the son of the 1986 Indy 500 winner would prefer having Oriol Servia as his teammate if the deal materializes. Servia has history with Rahal, having performed three one-off efforts for the team at Indy over the last decade.

Now as for the Indy 500 in 2017 itself, filling the field may get an early jump start, yet it still is a puzzle that for now is missing a few pieces from full completion. If the second Rahal entry materializes, the circuit would have 22 fulltime runners for next season or two-thirds of a 33-car lineup. The likely third Ed Carpenter Racing car for its road course replacement would make 23, with Juan Pablo Montoya’s possible one-off entry with Roger Penske making 24. Expect Andretti Autosport to once again offer a fifth car at the Brickyard (possibly for Indy specialist Townsend Bell) and based on social media posts, it also appears likely that Pippa Mann will once again participate at Indy, with Dale Coyne Racing being the lead candidate to assist her.

Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson had hoped to run three cars fulltime in 2017,  but worst case scenario will run a third car at Indy and in a handful of other 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series events. Its lead Indy Lights driver this year Santiago Urrutia has been rumored as a potential driver for this entry. A.J. Foyt Racing has also shown a willingness to enter an extra car to make up the numbers and may very well do so again next May.  There is also a chance Dreyer-Reinbold Kingdom Racing and Buddy Lazier’s family run operation could each return in 2017. If all of those come to reality, that would put the field at 30 cars, with only three more needed to ensure a full field. Not the perfect storyline, yet one that should reach a good conclusion.

Regardless of the outcome, it is safe to say the 2017 silly season has indeed live up to the term and maybe a few more surprises are in store.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.